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(1985) ** 1/2 Pg
99 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Michael Ritchie. Cast: Chevy Chase, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker, Richard Libertini.

/content/films/3416/1.jpgWatching Fletch today, it's interesting to note the similarities with Glenn Gordon Caron's 1985-1989 TV series Moonlighting. Fletch's mystery plot (scripted by Andrew Bergman ostensibly from the novel by Gregory McDonald) is exactly the sort of entertaining nonsense on which Moonlighting would hang the smart-ass antics of Bruce Willis' David Addison. I guess there was just something in the zeitgeist of 1985 that made this sort of noir-meets-screwball formula stick when thrown against the screen.

As for Fletch, it's a flimsy but fun showcase for erstwhile Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase as MacDonald's wisecracking L.A. investigative journalist Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher. Writing under the name "Jane Doe," Fletch dons elaborate disguises to gather information for highly promotable columns, such as his overdue series on waterfront drug dealers (George Wendt among them). He's distracted from this task when wealthy businessman Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), taking the undercover Fletch for a drifter, offers him a job. Claiming to suffer from terminal cancer, Stanwyk wants Fletch to kill him, thereby avoiding a prolonged death and securing insurance money for his wife Gail (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson). Intrigue ensues.

What truly holds Fletch together isn't the somewhat off-putting Chase—whose screen presence was always defined by a love-it-or-hate it smugness—but his time-tested collaborators: screenwriter Bergman (The In-Laws) and director Michael Ritchie (The Candidate, Smile). Ritchie attracted a strong supporting cast, including Richard Libertini as Fletch's beleaguered editor, Geena Davis as Fletch's adoring co-worker, M. Emmet Walsh as a befuddled doctor, as well as Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein), Joe Don Baker (GoldenEye), and William Sanderson (Blade Runner). Fletch earned its cult status, though, with its silly streak: those disguises (including Chase in an Afro opposite Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a Lakers-themed dream) and attendant sniggering names (like "John Cocktoastin").

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/2/2009

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

It's fair to say that Fletch has never looked better on home video than it does on Universal's new Blu-ray special edition. But the aging transfer still has its share of issues: mild but apparent macroblocking, occasional contrast wavering, a spotty source, and—most noticeably—some pretty serious edge enhancement. To the casual viewer, though, Fletch is going to look pretty darn good for a 24-year-old flick. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is as flat as the image, but for a comedy film of this vintage, one shouldn't expect much.

The main bonus feature is "Just Charge It to the Underhills: Making and Remembering Fletch" (26:34, SD), a retrospective doc that's about as annoyingly smug as Chase at his worst, and Chase isn't even in it. Still, there's some interesting interview material with screenwriter Andrew Bergman, producers Alan Greisman and Peter Douglas, first assistant director Wolfgang Glattes, M. Emmet Walsh, Larry Flash Jenkins, George Wyner, Richard Libertini, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Tim Matheson, editor Richard Harris, and associate producer/production manager Gordon Webb.

"From John Cocktoastin to Harry S. Truman: The Disguises" (4:54, SD) focuses exclusively on Fletch's various looks, though obviously doesn't dig very deeply in less than five minutes. Interviewed are Douglas, Greisman, Bergman, Webb, makeup artist Ken Chase, hair stylist Bunny Parker, Wheeler-Nicholson, Jenkins, and Matheson.

"Favorite Fletch Moments" (2:37, SD) is strictly a montage of clips, an especially pointless feature on a Blu-ray disc with a bookmarking (My Scenes) feature.

Last up is the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (1:32, SD)

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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